Balm for straitened times

Christopher Pincher offers some bargain whites for our tricky times

On Wine

This article is taken from the November issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering three issue for just £5.


These are difficult times. They test us, our patience, our humour, our ingenuity and, of course, our finances. With a public health emergency inextricably entangled with a fiscal one, it is not surprising that so many people are taking greater care of themselves and their bank accounts. Belts are being tightened and spending reined in as so many more people begin to learn to live on a budget.

Budgets have been lived with since time immemorial. Gaius Licinius Stolo passed a budget moratorium on debt to stave off the economic collapse of the Roman Republic; Robert Walpole introduced budgets to the House of Commons to restore confidence after the South Sea Bubble burst; Geoffrey and Elspeth Howe lived with their Budget quite literally every day, having named the family Jack Russell after the annual fiscal event.

For wine lovers, living on a budget is not always easy. But it can be done (perhaps now of all times should be done) with a little care and a visit to wholesalers such as Majestic. Among the white wines you will find at least two budget winners which are soft on both the tongue and the wallet (the word budget is derived from French bougette or purse).

Take, for instance, Marlborough’s Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. Jacinda Ardern and the All Blacks are not the only winners to emerge from New Zealand. This zesty white brimming with lovely lime and guava undertones revs up the taste buds like Gene Hunt in his Audi Quattro: a roaring hot-rod that accelerates to the back of the throat in under two seconds leaving a simmering and shimmering gooseberry haze in its wake.And even though this white has go-faster stripes carried along on alluvial alloys, it is fairly priced for a young and keen market.

Take too that other antipodean offering, Australia’s Yellow Tail Chardonnay. This, despite its name, is by no means bouncy but rather a delicious creamy, mouthful of vanilla and liquorice. It seems to slide slowly across the palate then slips down the throat with such buttery ease one hardly notices it is gone, like the evening summer sun captured in a glass.

Both these wines demonstrate what the southern hemisphere offers discerning drinkers looking for something to carry us through the waning months of a doleful year, and to do so at a discounted price. As we approach Christmas and the season of goodwill, people have a right to try to cheer themselves up and to look forward to 2021, despite its likely challenges, as the year where the tide will finally turn against the Covid enemy. Good, inexpensive wine is one of the home front weapons we can all use from time to time to keep our morale up and our costs down.

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